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Live review: Silversun Pickups at the Greek Theatre

August 8, 2010 |  3:57 pm

The indie act, whose sound has evolved and deepened, delivers highly charged modern guitar rock.


Not every rock act needs to change to play the big rooms. At the Greek Theatre on Friday, the Silversun Pickups looked as they always have, lost in a swirl of melody and noise, ecstatically doubled over their instruments on a stage barely decorated with a big sheet and flashing lights. None of it would have been out of place at their earliest shows at Spaceland or the Silverlake Lounge.

The band's fuzzy, explosive indie rock benefits from that direct approach, as hooks collide with sudden bursts of feedback, more My Bloody Valentine than pure pop. It was 90 minutes of highly charged modern guitar rock, ready for radio but too crisp to be called grunge, delivering relentless flash and spark over the rumbling bass lines of Nikki Monninger.

"Please excuse the glee that is … coming out of our pores," singer-guitarist Brian Aubert said early in the set, grinning at the huge hometown crowd. "We're a little excited."

It's a sentiment Aubert has voiced at other tour stops this summer, acknowledging the Pickups' accelerating rise from clubs to amphitheaters, though his band showed itself ready for the biggest spaces as early as a 2007 main-stage appearance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The distinctive Pickups sound is one-size-fits-all, even as it evolved and deepened with last year's ambitious "Swoon" album.

Early in the set, "Well Thought Out Twinkles" nearly came apart in spasms of chaos, as drummer Christopher Guanlao moved in perpetual circular motion, a perfect storm of beats. For "Little Lover's So Polite," Aubert's electric, joyful rasp was equal parts Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies and Lindsey Buckingham, and Monninger was cheered by fans during her soft, romantic vocal turn: "It's always the same way for me / Ending in the same way."

The band slowed to a brooding crawl for "It's Nice to Know You Work Alone," then erupted again over the piano chords of Joe Lester on "Panic Switch" as Aubert stepped back to unfurl shimmering, slashing insect tones on his guitar.

It was a noise to match the emotion of the moment. During the show-closing crescendo of "Common Reactor," Guanlao began taking snapshots of the scene from a tripod as the others exited. Aubert was the last to leave the stage, down on his knees and wrestling bursts of feedback from his effects pedals before lifting a wine glass for a final goodbye.

The Pickups were the last of a trio of bands at the Greek on Friday, each showing a sound and purpose of its own. First was the shambolic, spirited garage rock from locals the Henry Clay People, delivering inspired eccentric jams from their new album, "Somewhere on the Golden Coast."

Then came Against Me!, a band of forceful punk-rock true believers. Singer-guitarist Tom Gabel shouted against one form of conformity after another, including on the song "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" (from the new album "White Crosses"). Bouncing anxiously behind a microphone and slashing punk-pop riffs with a tattooed arm, Gabel celebrated the original punk ethos, reiterating the eternal need of young punks, artists and bands to find a distinctive way to "set the world on fire."

-- Steve Appleford

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

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